Kmart Chef Restaurants

Kmart Chef Restaurants

Kmart Chef restaurants were a small chain of free-standing fast-food restaurants owned by Kmart. They were started in 1967 with the first location being in the parking lot of their Pontiac, Michigan store. They would open several more Michigan locations and would eventually add restaurants in New Mexico, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas.

The menu consisted of standard fast foods such as burgers, french fries, hot dogs, fruit drinks, soft drinks, and pies. The food was served in a hybrid cafeteria/fast food method. You would come to the location and grab a tray, then move along a counter and get the food you wanted at various stations.

Once you got your food, you would take your tray and could enjoy indoor seating. This was the trend at the time and even tradition walk-up restaurants like McDonald’s were making the change to this fast-food dining paradigm.

This method has been experimented with by many fast-food chains. Burger King still runs many locations similar to this at malls, airports, and highway service areas.

Prices were reasonable for food at the time. A Burger would cost you about 18 cents, which was also the price point that was taking hold at most food establishments at the time. So an individual could easily have a meal for under 50 cents. That would be about $5.32 in 2019.

Kmart Chef never really caught on, but the strategy was sound. If you could make customers comfortable and give them more time at your location, they would spend more money. Unfortunately, other restaurants were not just doing the same thing as Kmart Chef, they were going it a lot better. So the chain folded in 1974 after only opening 11 locations.

Eventually, they would add eating back to Kmart in the form of in-store Cafes, but the age of their experimenting with a fast-food system was over.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Retro Justin

    This is news to me. Did eat at Woolworth’s though.

  2. mwentworth

    Now, in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Kmarts in my area did have a little deli area. There was many a night when my dinner consisted of ham & cheese sandwiches on lackluster burger buns; nondescript subs, and some pretty decent popcorn.

  3. dennis scully

    I was attending college in the late 60s and early 70s in Erie , Pa. K mart had one of these there. It looked very much like a Macdonalds with some sort of “arches”. These were in the K mart “blue” color. I imagine that they might have been in the shape of a “K”but may be stretching my memory on that. The prices were similar to those at Macdonalds, maybe slightly cheaper. One item that I remember was the Big K burger and or cheeseburger modeled, I thought after the Big Mac. Would like to see a picture of one.

  4. Drahken

    The kmarts around here always had diners within the building back in the 80s. They are a big part of my holiday memories. We would go shopping, park the cart outside the diner area, have a burger & fries, do one of those coloring contest things while waiting for our food, then grab our cart & on the way to the checkout counter we’d get one of those long strips of lolipops, and one of those plastic canes filled with sixlets candy.
    Sadly, kmart removed the diners from all their stores many years ago. 🙁

    While these in-store diners did have their own external door in addition to the store-side access, I’ve never seen a free-standing one.

    We never had any woolworth’s in our area, but we did have a murphy’s store in town, which was essentially the same (including the little diner area). I think the 2 chains were even owned by the same parent company. I used to eat in their diner thing sometimes too.

  5. V.E.G.

    I never heard of a Kmart Chef restaurant! Well, too bad I was not even born yet to see and it came to end when my parents got married in 1974 and it was 43 years ago. All good things must come to an end.

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